Archive for June, 2010

Q. How can I help our student interns document their success at their internships?

by the Intern Coach

A. Your interns are most fortunate to have an employer who wants to make sure that they receive proper documentation for their hard work on your company’s behalf.  Such tangible proof of performance will strengthen their resumes and provide additional material for their portfolios. Here’s how to provide that documentation:

  • Make sure that the intern supervisor fills out the final evaluation form, which is usually provided by your intern’s school. The student should receive a copy of the final evaluation form as well as the school. If the intern has performed well, the supervisor should also write a letter of recommendation, complimenting the student on his/her work, on the company letterhead.
  • If the intern supervisor has written weekly evaluations that are positive, you might want to make copies of those evaluations and present them in a folder to your student intern, so he/she can use them to get other internships or positions.
  • Do give your intern fresh copies of every item on which he or she has worked. Your student intern may have contributed to a report or document that will not be finalized until after the internship is over. When that report or document appears, send it to the intern with a thank you note, which your intern could use to get future internships or jobs.  You could also add their names as authors or contributors to the documents or reports if their participation warrants such recognition. 
  • Consider asking other company employees with whom your student intern has worked closely to write a recommendation for the intern, too. If your intern has been part of a team, perhaps the team leader would be willing to write a recommendation for the intern. Or if your student has moved around to different departments, you could ask the various department heads to write recommendations for the intern.
  • Offer to help your student intern collate these materials into a professional presentation. You might have a handsome company binder or folder that you could give to the intern. Ask one of your design-oriented staff to help organize the binder for your student intern. If your company is not well known, you might want to add some company information into the binder to help your student intern impress other potential internship organizations by his/her affiliation with your firm.

June 29, 2010 at 9:19 am Leave a comment

Q. What incentives can I use to help our interns finish deadline projects on time?

by the Intern Coach

A. In the best of all possible worlds, your interns would be swept along in a wave of enthusiasm with your other employees as everyone worked together to finish deadline projects on time. However, this is not always the case, so you may need some innovative ways to inspire your interns. Here are a few tips:  

  • Please realize that your interns may not have developed the ability to work at an accelerated speed to finish a project and may not understand why such a goal is important. It’s up to the intern supervisor to mentor the intern, educating him/her on the details as to why the project is meaningful and what would be the consequences if the project doesn’t meet the deadline.
  • Incentives for interns can range from a free lunch in the company cafeteria to tickets to a baseball game or special dinner, where the company has a block of tickets. When your intern finishes a project on or ahead of deadline, you could recognize him/her in the company newsletter for outstanding efforts.
  • Some companies use a point system to reward interns and to help them establish professional work habits. For example, if your intern finishes a project, he/she would receive a certain number of points.  If he/she finishes it before deadline, the intern earns more points. Being on time for work deserves points, not missing any days scores points etc. At the end of the internship, the intern may have reached the gold standard in terms of points and be awarded a certificate as well as a cash prize or other remuneration.
  • If a deadline project is quite large and very important towards reaching the company’s bottom-line, then you might offer incentives not only to your interns but to your employees. You’ll find your intern will model the behavior of the other employees, so if your staff is highly motivated, your intern will probably be inspired to finish deadline projects on time, too.

June 23, 2010 at 10:25 am Leave a comment

Q. What if the student’s self-assessment of their performance isn’t in alignment with the company’s?

by the Intern Coach

A. If the student thinks he/she is not performing up to company expectations, but the company is totally satisfied with the student, that’s not a serious problem. You can simply assure the insecure intern that you’re very pleased with his/her work. However, if the student perceives that he/she is doing an excellent job while the company begs to differ, that’s a complicated problem. Here are some solutions to get everyone in agreement: 

  • The internship manager needs to compare the student and the company assessments to discover the discrepancies. After isolating the problem areas from the company viewpoint, the manager should devise a list of suggestions on how the intern can improve those problem areas. Also note any problems that the intern alleges with the company.
  • The most challenging step is sitting down with the intern and explaining the company’s concerns and how the intern can address those issues. First, select an area in which the student is meeting company expectations and compliment the intern on a job well done. Then, point out the areas that need to have improvement, emphasizing that the student will benefit by increasing his/her skill set.  
  • Be positive in your suggestions and phrase your sentences carefully. For example, instead of saying, “You aren’t getting your reports in on time, and you’re working too slowly,” try saying, “We’d like to see the reports in earlier; if you feel overwhelmed with other duties, we can lighten your load.”
  • Rather than blaming the intern with the word “you” for poor performance, you’re focusing on teamwork with the word “we” and the company’s desire to help the intern achieve success. It’s helpful for you and the student intern to set revised goals together, so he/she can take appropriate steps to improve performance.
  • After you have this conversation with your student, check in on a daily basis to see how the student is progressing in reaching the goals. Keep up a teamwork attitude, so the student feels supported in these efforts. By the next evaluation period, the company and the intern should be in alignment on assessments. 

June 16, 2010 at 10:58 am Leave a comment

Q. Is it permissible to survey the staff for opinions on an intern’s performance and attitude?

by the Intern Coach

A. That’s a sensitive issue. The answer is yes and no, depending on the pre-arranged guidelines governing the internship. The following suggestions may help you decide what’s appropriate in your organization.

  • Check the internship guidelines to see if a survey is listed as one of the methods to assess the intern’s performance. If so, yes, you have clear permission to survey the staff for its opinion. However, your organization may want to have the same ground rules for the rest of the staff, so the intern doesn’t feel singled out. How are the staff members evaluated?
  • If the survey is not described in written materials before the internship begins, then the answer is, in most cases, no. If you bring it up as an afterthought, the intern will be suspicious and think you are checking up on him/her. You might want to ask the department head or intern supervisor for his/her opinion before you make any decision.
  • The staff may or may not like to be involved in such a survey. Some members might find they don’t have the time to do a survey or that it’s a waste of their valuable time. Others might feel that they don’t know the intern well enough to participate in the survey. If you have several interns in the company or in the department, the staff may feel overwhelmed by the survey assignments, especially if they haven’t worked closely with the intern.
  • A word of caution: If you do a survey, you don’t have any guarantee that the results will be an accurate reading of the intern’s performance unless you customize each survey to relate to each intern’s assignment. Before you come to a decision, talk to the intern’s school to find out if staff surveys are the usual procedure or if they are frowned on by the career center. Then, proceed accordingly.

June 9, 2010 at 11:54 am Leave a comment

Understanding coaching in cross-cultural work settings

by Miguel Corona

The other day I came across this article on the Coaching Commons website, which asked the question: would knowing a person’s cultural history help you coach them? According to a new study featured in the article, understanding another’s culture can make a difference in effective coaching strategies. As shared by the study’s authors and by my previous posts, culture is an important element that forms a person’s identity. Hence, by understanding one’s culture, a manager or supervisor can gain a better understanding of their behaviors especially in a work setting. Given today’s multi-cultural workforce, the ability to develop employees by fully tapping and recognizing their talents is essential. 

In working with managers over the last year, I’ve noted that their biggest challenge in understanding cultural differences is not the different backgrounds, experiences, values, or languages, of their employees, but it’s in understand their own culture. Put differently, some of the managers that I’ve work with filter expectations and meanings based on their own experiences. This has the potential for creating a number of perceived dilemmas. How? By supervising employees or interns based solely on their own cultural perspective, a manager might assume it’s the employee that might be having an issue. Since managing an intern depends in part to one’s cultural perspective, a potential barrier to an intern’s progress might be related cultural differences rather than behavior. 

This is why my advice to managers supervising or coaching recent Hispanic college graduates has always been the same. Cultural awareness is not only about understanding your own culture, but also understanding that your culture will probably be different than the person you’re supervising. Furthermore, cultural awareness, especially in a supervision context, is more than realizing another culture might be unlike your own; it’s about learning to appreciate that other culture. Often times it’s culture that dictates your behavior – often times without you knowing. For example, it impacts the way you communicate, your body language, and how you manage conflict. By understanding that your culture influences your viewpoints and perspectives, you’ll decrease the likelihood of misinterpreting an employee’s behavior.

If you’re working with Hispanic interns in your organization, I’d encourage you to place a greater focus on understanding your culture as well as that of your intern’s. This is especially important if you’re in a supervisory role. I’ve hopefully explained why developing cross cultural awareness has much in common with building rapport in a coaching situation. For supervisors, it’s not only about understanding another’s culture but also about understanding their own.

June 8, 2010 at 11:06 am Leave a comment

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This blog is dedicated to employers with a focus on how to hire and manage interns effectively. We will have a variety of experts who will share helpful ideas, tips and more. We invite you to comment, ask questions and share your experiences. You are also welcome to submit written contributions to this blog.

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